Profile: Leprechauns (March, 2013)

The word “leprechaun” brings to mind Lucky Charms cereal, St. Patrick’s Day, and a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. St. Patrick probably didn’t approve of these pagan nature spirits, even though they have come to be associated with the saint’s day. But leprechauns represent the beating heart of Ireland, and they are such beloved symbols of the Irish spirit that they also have their own holiday, on May 13.

Leprechauns are the oldest of the nature spirits, “older than the Earth itself,” and very wise. They work with time expertly, and many of them are skilled at manipulating energy, mechanics, and electronics. They have a long tradition of making first-class shoes for fairies and other folk, and that’s how they earn piles of coins and gems. And yes, they use rainbows to mark where they bury crocks full of treasure. A leprechaun weaves a series of clues into the fabric of the rainbow itself — clues only he can decipher — so no one else can dig up his hoard.

Leprechauns tend to enjoy the company of human children more than adults. They take great pleasure in helping to make wishes come true (especially for kids), and will usually honor any wish that is made with good intentions.

For those who think leprechauns are just a charming myth, the first recorded sighting was in the 8th century. And to see a photo of a real mouse-skin shoe found in 1835, get a copy of Janet Bord’s book, “Fairies, Real Encounters with Little People.”

Masters of blarney, leprechauns are slick talkers who love a good practical joke. After centuries of dealing with greedy humans who are after their gold, they know how to distract us and vanish in the twinkling of an eye. But if you approach them with respect and an open heart, and ask them to share their secrets, they may choose to reveal a new world of wonders to you.

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